Thursday, 24 November 2011

Save all teh librarians lol

I was working on a post about the many things wrong with volunteer "libraries", and how they would hopefully spectacularly collapse into farce and ridicule (maybe some court cases, minor injuries to staff and patrons, the odd fire and explosion or two, TV news footage of shellshocked bewildered volunteers covered in dust, smoke and asbestos saying "We didn't really have a clue what we were doing"), and basically serves them right for buying into the ridiculousness that making skilled professionals redundant and trying to replace them with whichever unskilled volunteer decides to show up each day is somehow still providing a "quality" library service.

Yes, making skilled professionals redundant; those people who were not paid much when actually employed anyway. Never forget that. Hence, no sympathy from this quarter when these Keystone Kop volunteer manned libraries hopefully go badly wrong.

But that Ian Anstice has (not for the first time) done a much better piece on this than I ever could. The swine! I'll come back to that, and why you need to read it, in a bit.

Save NYC Libraries Postcard Campaign -- Postcard 3

Instead, DOPEY (Department Of Paintings, Etchings and Yodelling) (think it's really called Culture and Media at the moment, but no doubt this will change yet again soon) has decided to look into the whole public library closure shooshtie. Here's the piece on the CILIP website, from which the following is taken (I bought the CEO of CILIP an evening dinner and the best wine in the restaurant before she fled to "catch a train" so I'm morally entitled to steal all their teabags and anything I want from the CILIP website until dinner is reciprocated)(btw Anniebuns, I haven't yet eaten in the Savoy...):
The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee have launched a new inquiry into public library closures in England. Chaired by John Whittingdale MP, the Committee are inviting written submissions and views on:
  • What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century.
  • The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Public Libraries & Museums Act (1964) and the Charteris Report.
  • The impact library closures have on local communities.
  • The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964.

Hmmm.

Save Michigan Libraries Rally

(Thinks a while) (Notes that two of the four points concern that 1964 act)

Is it just my over-fertile imagination, or could this end up in a number of ways, some very good and some very bad? Including the committee recommending that:
  • The Public Libraries & Museums Act (1964) should be updated and strengthened for today's world.
  • Libraries should provide services, both digital and print, that connect the local population with the information and knowledge they need to function and self-improve.
  • Libraries, and professional librarians, provide a range of unique services that are essential to individuals and communities, and therefore need to be enhanced e.g. longer opening hours, more branches, rather than reduced in size, scope and availability.
  • There needs to a moratorium on library closures until yet another committee has debated their usefulness [good] or consultants such as Perkins have evaluated their business models [uh-oh] or KPMG have evaluated how best they should be funded [libraries are doomed].
  • The Act should be scrapped as it hinders the freedom of councils to spend tax payers most efficiently and make full use of the potential of communities to participate in the Big Society and [insert rabid Conservative ideology of your choice here].

Save Our Library

In no way will I hint at which party I voted for at the last election. The committee has five Conservative, four Labour and one YOUR BACK STABBING TWO FACED LEADER SAID THERE WOULD BE NO TUITION FEES I mean Liberal Democrat MPs on it. It is chaired by a Conservative MP.

Okay; anyone can submit to the enquiry. Hurrah! Though the small print is vexing: "Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission ... Evidence submitted must be kept confidential until published by the Committee ... Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee ... Once submitted, no public use should be made of any submission prepared specifically for the Committee unless you have first obtained permission from the Clerk of the Committee."

That's annoying. And also it's problematic for certain organisations who cannot, therefore, make public the information they submit. Also, the committee does not have to release every submission, and it's likely that individuals and organisations who want libraries to either close, or be taken over by commercial entities or volunteers (and, don't kid yourself, there are a lot of people with this mindset), will be more inclined to write in and request anonymity.

Save Your Library --Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library

So what to do? Yeah, submit to the committee. They want stuff by email, so even the armchair activists can have a go; no need to man the barricades or sit in a court room or throw buns at politicians for this one. And there's a point: If you have the time, and the facilities, to read this blog post, then you have all that is needed to submit a piece to the committee. Number of excuses legitimate reasons not to do so: zero.

This is your moment and opportunity.

There may not be another.

Don't leave it, deliberately or not, until it's too late:
"A copy of the submission should be sent by e-mail to cmsev@parliament.uk and have ‘Library closures’ in the subject line. Submissions should be received by Thursday 12th January 2012."


A few points to consider:
  • They want evidence.
  • Evidence is not "Oh, libraries aren't what they used to be, when you could smell the loveliness of books and hold them, and now they are all noisy with young immigrants all updating their Facetool profiles on those dreadful computers..." (several more pages) "...in my day. Something must be done!"
  • Evidence is how it tangiably impacts you, residents, the community. If the library goes, what services, facilities, sources of knowledge and information, are removed.
  • Not everyone can afford, or use, the Internet or an e-reader. And the Internet and e-readers only allow access to fragments of the much larger mass of information out there. This point needs to be one rammed into the minds of the committee members, as it's the most frequent excuse, or lie, for "justifying" closing public libraries.

But, the committee is going to receive a massive amount of evidence, and there's no way in heck that all ten members will read all of it. Or any member will read all of it. Once the various MPs have finished their statutory duties and filled in their expense claim forms for having their moats refilled, stables extended or private jets repainted, how much time will they have left to read the evidence? Not much. Instead, they'll be flicking through the distilled version prepared by civil servants.

Save Our NJ Libraries Rally 30

So ... there may be mileage in approaching the ten members of the committee directly too, so the odd point or two sticks in their minds. Perhaps surprisingly, eight of the ten are on Twitter, linked in this list:

Having said that, Tweeting has probably a limited effect in this case. It's 140 characters maximum, and every politician, every celebrity, every reality TV star-of-today is deluged with requests for this, that, and every campaign. What you could consider doing is writing to some or all of the ten, as - even though MPs have a large post bag every day - that may have a greater chance of being put under his or her nose.

Save Our Libraries

And a letter can be longer than 140 characters. And you can recycle (keeping within the rules) stuff sent directly to the committee. And sending a letter to an MP is easier than voting for one of them, and probably not as eventually soul crushing, as they have a very short postal address:

(Name of MP) MP
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA


Stuck for words? (that would be the first for a librarian) {/sarcasm} Here's 150 reasons by 150 people that you can draw on. And, there's two sources of material that come to mind. The first is Lauren's list on the many, many things that professional librarians do that volunteers cannot or will not. That's a list that every library advocate needs to have at the top of their bookmark list.

Save our Libraries - Vote August 7th

The second is the post by Ian Anstice that I mentioned at the start of this post, on volunteer and community run libraries. Actually, read his post on the committee as well for more ideas, but his one on the sham that is volunteer libraries makes the point well, while still being a balanced and comprehensive piece.

Also, his post on privatized libraries as well. Actually, you're better off just reading his whole blog, to be honest. It's probably the best in the UK for matters public library, and has more evidence, resources and links than you can shake a 23rd edition of the DCC at.

And lo, the next battle front in this war to retain public library services for the public opens...

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